Free The Bears Wildlife Center in Phnom Tmao, Cambodia - travel journal

Youths looking into enclosure
Responsible Travel has partnered with Friends International in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to support a trip for to the Wildlife Rescue Center, Free the Bears Sanctuary. Young people from vulnerable backgrounds donít usually have the opportunity to visit wildlife centres, so this trip gave young people a chance for learn about their countryís wildlife and understand their habitat.

Free the Bears is non-profit rescue center that focuses on the protection and rehabilitation of Moon bears (Ursus thibetanus), Sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) and Sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) across Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. To protect the species the centre employs a wide range of strategies that include improving environmental education, providing sustainable livelihoods, helping to increase law enforcement and researching the protection of wild bear populations.

Date: Friday, 24th November 2017: This was the seventh trip that Mith Samlanh organized for a group of 18 (4 female) children and youth to the Wildlife Center Free the Bears educational program. The children and youth were age between 10-24 years old and participate in Mith Samlanhís programs. The children are from slum communities are all are studying at Mith Samlanhís educational center and vocational training.


8am - Breakfast at Mith Samlanh: Before heading to the wildlife Centre all the youth and children had breakfast at Mith Samlanh. At 8:30am the children and youth were picked up at Mith Samlanh to be transported to Tamao mountain, to visit Free the Bears.

10am - 11:30 pm: The group was welcomed by the Free the Bears staff, who presented their work and conducted a short game of questions and answers about the history of the bears and their value. They guided the children around the wildlife Centre to see different species of wild Sun Bear and Moon Bear, as well as other animals.

11:30 - 12:30 pm: The group relaxed and had lunch.

12:30 - 1:50 pm: In the afternoon, the tour around the wildlife centre continued, and the children learnt about animals and the importance of wildlife conservation.

2:00pm: After spending three hours exploring and listening about wildlife conservation, the children went back on the bus and returned to MS.

Group walking through the centre
Children and youths group photo
Impact: These children and youth come from a marginalized community where they would have very little chance of visiting a place like the Free the Bears Center, to see wildlife from their country and around the world, and to learn about it. For many of them it was the first ever trip they had taken outside Phnom Penh. This meant that the trip was very meaningful for all of them. All of the children looked very happy to see and learn about animals and expressed their excitement to be immersed in the nature, to relax with their friends, and to experience a new place.

Quotes from the social workers:
"I am feeling happy to see the children and youth having the chance to see the wildlife and learn about different animals"

"Itís very impressive to see some children change their attitude towards animals after visiting the centre. I think they learned a lot."
About our partner organisation: Friends International is an award-winning social enterprise founded in 1994 that saves lives and builds futures of the most marginalized children, youth, families and communities in Southeast Asia and around the world. It works to create a future where all children are safe from all forms of abuse, and become functional, productive citizens who contribute to a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable world. Friends works in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Thailand, and with 45 partners around the world, to provide comprehensive services to marginalized urban children, youth and their families. Since its inception, Friends has supported the education, well-being, and sustainable reintegration of more than 300,000 vulnerable children, youth and their families.

Mith Samlanh was established in 1994 as Friends first program based in Phnom Penh Cambodia. Since its inception, the program has supported the education, well-being, and sustainable social reintegration of more than 200,000 marginalised children, youth, and their caregivers. It does this through a holistic range of inclusive programming that impacts about 15,000 beneficiaries each year.

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